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Social policy formulation calls for balancing act

14 September 2012

Mr Chan speaking at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's 8th Anniversary Public Lecture

Mr Chan and Prof Wang Gungwu (2nd from right), Chairman of the LKY School Board, launching the book. Looking on were authors (from left) Ms Astrid S Tuminez, Prof Mahbubani and Assoc Prof Kenneth Paul Tan (far right)

The dilemmas in formulating social policy arise from finding ways to achieve competing ends with finite means. Globalisation and evolving demographics make the challenges even more daunting, said Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence. He was the Guest of Honour and speaker at the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's 8th Anniversary Public Lecture on 7 September.

In his talk titled "Reflections on making social policies: negotiating tensions and dilemmas", Mr Chan noted that globalisation has intensified competition and widened the gap between the haves and have-nots. Demographic issues such as an ageing population, late marriages, low birth rate and smaller family support systems are demanding reassessment of existing policy needs and delivery.

He stressed that prevention is better than cure, and "a glimmer foresight beats perfect hindsight". The social service sector needs a future-oriented system to preempt challenges, ask the right questions to define the issues correctly, and manage expectations of different groups, so as to better prepare for current and future needs.

The event at the NUS University Cultural Centre saw a good turnout comprising distinguished guests, faculty staff and students. A participative audience asked many thought-provoking questions such as why Singapore is not a Nirvana despite being one of the world's wealthiest countries, tackling gender inequality in addressing the fertility problem, the government's strategy in early detection of children with disability or developmental issues, and ensuring assistance for the truly needy.

To celebrate the School's anniversary, the book Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy: Building a Global Policy School in Asia was launched by Mr Chan. It contains a compilation of chapters written by LKY School Dean Professor Kishore Mahbubani and four other key faculty members on their experiences and the challenges faced building the School. The book, available in major bookshops in Singapore, features blurbs from prominent personalities including Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair.